Strange as it may sound, the latest salvo in the browser wars wasnt announced at a high-profile do, or even a mega-hyped web launch. It took the unusual shape of a web comic book in which Google announced to the world that it intended to change the way browsers were made.
If youre just catching up with the news, Chrome is Googles long anticipated, much delayed entry into the Internet browser market, one thats still largely dominated by Microsoft. While they slug it out, we tap you in to the next-generation browser wars as they pan out over your Internet connection, and get you started on which side to pick.
Shiny, needs polish?
Coming from Google, its tempting to believe Chrome will change the face of the Internet as we know it — for most of us, Google knows the Internet best, right? A peep into the launch comic book (available for free at http://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/) reveals some fundamental design decisions that may well upset Microsofts cart.
For starters, instead of launching all the web pages youre looking at, at one point of time, under one program (process), Chrome starts a new copy of its program for every tab, window, and plug-in youre using. That way, when one site acts up or slows down, it wont affect anything else that you have open, say an important mail youre composing. Control-Alt-Delete, close the errant window, and youre back to business.
Starting Chrome up is insanely fast, its noticeably faster to get running than any of the browsers on this page. It opens up a dynamic home page with sites you visit most often — rather useful. And like its Google stable mates, Chrome has a remarkably minimalist interface. No fancy menus, no distractions, no space-hogging logos and buttons – everything is bundled into two icons to the right of the address bar. Not an ordinary address bar, mind you — the Omnibar, Googles address-cum-search-cum-all-purpose bar lets you type in a URL or a search term, or both, and Chrome takes you there. And yes, if youre thinking all of this maximises your screen space for browsing, youre spot on!
And taking a leaf out of Microsofts book, Chrome offers a private browsing option called Incognito, which is essentially a special type of new window where nothing you do will be logged or saved on your computer. I can only smirk when I think of the most obvious use for this.
Of course, you should know this is an early Windows-only beta, indicative of things to come but still not the most polished product around. It needs more add-ons a la Mozilla Firefox, and I personally wont switch unless critical work and finance sites start working properly on Chrome. And, if you believe the paranoid conspiracy theorists, now Google will know more about me than I know of myself!
Pity then that Chromes launch almost eclipsed the latest beta release of Internet Explorer (IE) 8 in the headlines. Microsofts still fighting fit though, and the latest beta does offer insight into some rather intriguing features that the next version of the browser will bring.
To be fair, some are borrowed, like the smart address bar which searches your browsing history, bookmarks, and adds search suggestions of its own as you type. Some may find the new Accelerators feature useful — lets say you select some text, IE then lets you can map a location, translate a foreign language, blog selected text and then some more — and rather neatly implemented too.
In addition, you get the ability to restore all open pages that were loaded when IE crashes, unlike the current version that restarts after a crash, but only displays the home page.
And of course, you get InPrivate Browsing. Nicknamed porn mode, InPrivate Browsing lets you surf the Web without generating a history of either your searches or visited pages. Unlike Chrome though, the entire browser turns private temporarily when you switch this feature on — Chrome lets you surf private pages along with your regular surfing.
In many ways, Internet Explorer 8 will be the browser that it should have been all along. It complies with web standards better than previous versions, there are enhanced Smart Screen filters to also detect sites that might distribute malware or trick you into parting with your bank information. And itll come packaged with one Windows update or the other, so youre most likely to see it when it launches.
Windows — now thats one distribution mechanism Google still has to figure out how to beat.
The usual suspect(s)
For a browser that proved that competing and winning over users weaned on IE was possible, Mozilla Firefox has grown and matured into a very serious alternative. Its still the most feature-rich in terms of extensions, by far.
Now Safari, Apples browser is a large part of Chromes DNA — Chrome uses the Webkit rendering engine, which is the open-source version of the one Apple developed for its Safari browser. Safari has a little-known Windows version, but its on the Mac where it rules the roost as the default browser. Chrome can give Mac users one more alternative (other than Firefox), but clearly, its not the Mac market thats the hotbed of action in the browser market.
A tough call
Heres a phone thatll weather the elements, maybe even outlast you. The LM801 from Condurro features an integrated flashlight, magnetic compass, barometer/
altimeter, FM radio, and thermometer, all bundled neatly into a yellow shell that is waterproof and dust proof. It serves a niche, but I can think of lots of us whod like our phones to take a licking and keep on ticking. With 3.5mm wall thickness and a magnesium frame inside, it is tough enough to survive most drops. And it also includes a laser pointer for your meetings — whats with no other phone having one?
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Rise and shine
Wake up properly, and your day goes off well; get jolted out of bed, and it doesnt, right? Try the Philips Wake-up Light, a device that simulates the rising of the sun by gradually getting brighter as your wake-up time draws near. And then theres the chirping of birds, the roar of the waves, or even a frogs croak to rouse you from your slumber.
Anything to take the pain out of waking up…